AFP update: Indonesia's Aceh Shuts Christian, Buddhist Places of
Oct 23, 2012 09:48 PDT
AFP update: Indonesia's Aceh Shuts Christian, Buddhist Places of Worship
October 23, 2012
JAKARTA — Authorities in Indonesia's only province that uses Islamic
sharia laws said Tuesday they had closed some Christian places of
worship and Buddhist temples following pressure from hardliners.
The closures in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, came
after complaints from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), and are the
latest sign of growing religious intolerance in Muslim-majority
Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal, deputy mayor of provincial capital Banda
Aceh where the closures took place, said the official reason was that
the nine Christian sites and six Buddhist temples did not have
But she told AFP that they were shut last week after complaints from
the FPI and that "there had been some tension before we took a
"We do not want any security trouble in Banda Aceh because of these
The FPI presents itself as an enforcer of morals and Islamic laws and
sometimes accompanies police in some parts of the country on violent
raids on bars and brothels.
Nico Tarigan, who led Christian services at a two-storey house until
its closure last week, said the FPI had attacked the building in June
and sent text message threats.
"What we've done was simply a religious activity. It's only once a
week and lasts not more than two hours," he told AFP.
"They threatened through phone messages that if we continued to hold a
Sunday service, they would ruin our places of worship," he said.
Theophilus Bela, chairman of NGO Christian Communication Forum, said
that he had urged the central government in Jakarta to intervene.
But the interior ministry signalled it would not step in, with a
spokesman saying that "there's no closure at all as those houses of
worship have no permit yet".
Indonesia's constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion.
But rights groups have said the country has become less tolerant over
the past decade and the government is turning a blind eye to the
Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 240 million people are Muslims, but
the vast majority practise a moderate form of Islam.
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